Concentrating Solar Power Seminar Series to examine Sustainable Aviation Fuels from Sunlight and Air

June 24, 2024 10:35 am Published by

Join seminal solar researcher Professor Aldo Steinfeld on Monday, July 8, 2024, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. MT for the next installment of the Sandia National Solar Thermal Test Facility Concentrating Solar Seminar Series.  

Hosted by Sandia’s Anthony McDaniel (Hydrogen and Materials Science) and Jeremy Sment (Concentrating Solar Power Technologies), Professor Steinfeld will present, “Sustainable Aviation Fuels from Sunlight and Air,” to discuss how the development of technologies to produce carbon-neutral transportation fuels has become a global energy challenge, especially for the long-haul aviation sector, and the research and development (R&D) efforts required to bring these solar fuels to market. 

One promising sustainable solution is the solar-driven production of drop-in fuels−synthetic substitutes for conventional petroleum-derived hydrocarbons−from H2O and CO2 co-extracted from atmospheric air. Researchers can now demonstrate the stable operation under field conditions of the entire solar fuel production chain, from concentrated sunlight and ambient air to the synthesis of drop-in fuels (e.g., methanol, kerosene).  

The solar fuel system integrates three thermochemical conversion processes: 

  1. the co-extraction of CO2 and H2O directly from air via an amine-based adsorption-desorption cycle; 
  2. the solar co-splitting of CO2 and H2O to produce a tailored syngas mixture via a ceria-based redox cycle; and 
  3. the conversion of syngas to liquid hydrocarbons via Fischer-Tropsch or methanol synthesis. 

The solar reactor technology is further scaled-up and demonstrated using a solar tower configuration, setting a technological milestone towards the industrial production of sustainable aviation fuels.  

Biographical Sketch: 

Aldo Steinfeld (PhD, University of Minnesota, 1989) is Professor at the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering of ETH Zurich, where he holds the Chair of Renewable Energy Carriers. His fundamental research focuses on high-temperature heat/mass transfer phenomena, multi-phase reacting flows, and functional redox materials. These are applied in the development of technologies for solar power and fuels, direct air capture and CO2 utilization, carbon-neutral thermochemical processing of energy-intensive chemicals (cement, ammonia, metals), thermal energy storage and sustainable energy systems.

Two spin-off companies have emerged from his research: Climeworks commercializes the technology for direct air capture and Synhelion commercializes the technology for solar fuel production. Professor Steinfeld is member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences.  

To learn more, contact Anthony McDaniel or Jeremy Sment.

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